auctions


I’ve been selling items online for about 5 years now.  Currently and hopefully for the rest of my working days this is a full-time gig.  In the past it has run the gamut from part-time in addition to a full-time lifesucking corporate job, little time because it was just a hobby, to virtually no time as in listing on occasion and letting the “business” sit there until a sale occurred.

 As with most things in my life, I have learned this business the hard way.  From my mistakes, from others’ mistakes, from reading incessantly for hours, and from trying a variety of new things as I went along.  Some attempts were successful and many were abyssmal failures but all were necessary to get where I am today – a mild to moderate success with much improvement needed.  🙂

I still feel like I don’t know a lot about this business but there are a few things that I feel that I know for sure.  These thoughts have occurred to me a lot in the last few weeks so I felt the need to write them down.  You may agree with some of these things.  You might strongly disagree but this has been my experience.

1.)  Online selling is a numbers game.  All the studying, Tweeting, webinars and podcasts do NOT replace listing and more listing.  The more I list, the more I sell.  Period.

2.)  Surround yourself with whiners, complainers, and do-nothings and that is what you become.  There are plenty of capable, successful people on the internet that are more than happy to be an example of what works and will share many helpful ideas on their blogs or on Facebook/Twitter.  There is a disproportionately large number of disgruntled negative sellers that feel the need to channel all of their energy into “not selling so that I may complain.”  Avoid them.  They are everywhere.  Especially in chat forums.  Enough said, until you get to Number 4 anyway.  But first, Number 3… 

3.)  Put the Best Offer on your eBay listings and OBO (Or Best Offer) on Bonanzle.  Not everyone will be a lowballer and I can always reject any offer.  It’s also FREE, so why not?  This single item is the best thing that I’ve done for my eBay store this year.  Not every buyer uses it but many want to haggle and succeed in getting an even better deal.  Some offers get declined but I wake up to a few of these every day.  In a tough $$$ week, I’m happy to see these offers because they represent to me “money in the bank.”  If I accept an offer on eBay, it’s an automatic sale.  Craig Stark of BookThink just wrote about this feature and his experience was similar.

4.)  Chat forums are, by and large, supreme time wasters.  Hours can go by while I read about the latest “controversy” on each venue.  I use the chat rooms now as a water cooler (with time limits in place) or as a place to go to find answers.  Working at home is isolating but I don’t need to have hours of online conversation either.  Don’t even get me started on the people who spend all of their time Tweeting news stories all day…  😦

5.)  Be flexible.  As much as it pains me to constantly change and ‘roll with it, baby’, it’s a fact of life online.  Things move fast here and when you sell on many venues there is always a “major change” ahead.  Each venue is constantly improving themselves (or they’re trying anyway) and that means CHANGE.  Whether I like it or not.  Will I complain if I don’t agree with the change?  Yep, but hopefully not for hours in a chat room and not for long.  I will tell myself to get over it and plan accordingly.  It’s their sandbox and I’m not taking my toys home unless it causes me to lose a significant amount of money.  Then I’ll just leave. 

Many MANY people criticize eBay.  I have many not-so-nice opinions of the way they’ve done business over the last two years.  I’ve never left them though.  It’s where I have made a large amount of money and their traffic still can’t be beat.  When I tell people that I sell on Bonanzle, they’ve never heard of it.  This is changing and it’s why I stay even though my sales there have been poor.  I have faith in Bonanzle and the people that run it.  When I tell people that I sell online, they say “You sell on eBay?”  It’s still the synonomous word for “online sales” and that is where the average internet buyer will go to look for a deal.  So I stay there and roll with the changes, for good and for bad.  Which brings me to…

6.)  Sell on various venues.  Don’t get roped into believing that one venue is the answer.  Always have an alternative site or, in my case, many sites.  I’m not so enamored of eBay to not realize that they can shut me down in a second.  I’ve read all the stories and heard all of the tales.  If Bill Harding at Bonanzle was offered a mega-million dollars to turn over the keys to Bonanzle, would he be foolish enough NOT to take it?  Even if it happened to be from his competitor?  And I wouldn’t blame him one bit for taking it and running.  These types of things happen all the time in business.

Spread yourself around and try to stay away from trouble.  Read the guidelines of each site and try, although this one is tough, to keep up with the ever-changing rules of each site.  Don’t try to cheat the system.  Don’t give a venue a reason to shut you down.  If you get an offer on eBay, keep it on eBay.  If you’re not allowed to direct a buyer to your blog off-site, don’t post your website on your listing.  When you get a sale from Borders through Alibris, don’t tout your own site in your packing materials.  “Dance with the one that brought ya” as they say. 

7.)  Sell a variety of items.  Having a mix of new, used, collectible, and rare items is a good plan for me.  Used books are becoming harder and harder to sell for any real money.  This is the market that I started in and it is becoming the part of my business that I’m spending the least time with.  The Kindle is here whether we like it or not.  Used books donation bins are becoming a business model for more and more megasellers.  Friends of the Library sales are increasingly rare and usually picked over by the libraries themselves, who have finally figured out that the books they were selling for 25 cents are worth a lot more to keep and sell on their own.  Amazon is continually hawking how easy it is to “Sell Yours Here” to anyone that pushes the button.  Anyone can be a bookseller on Amazon, just hit the button.  Many wholesalers are now competing against their retail customers too. If I stayed with the books I would be very much worse for the wear right now.

These are just a few things that I know and I have so much more to learn.  For now, I’ll be listing auctions for the rest of the day because —  8.) Blogging  doesn’t make me money despite what I’ve read on Twitter…

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Who exactly is eBay appealing to now?  I’m not so sure that they’ve figured out what sellers want nor do they seem to care.

The latest “big announcement” is that eBay will, as of June 16th, 2009, be allowing the first five auction insertion fees to be waived and the Final Value Fees on those auctions be lowered to either $20.00 or 8.75% whichever is lower.

Hardly a big deal for those of us who list many auctions per week.  For me this new procedure will save a measly $1.75 per month (.35 x 5) in listing fees plus a few percent of the FVF which has lately been a low selling price (assuming that those five auctions result in a sale.)  It’s a start and it’s heading in the right direction (down) but I can’t even begin to feel excitement about this change.  Also part of this new offering is that in order to get the five free insertion fees the seller must use the Sell Your Item or Simple listing tool.  I use a third party listing program (Inkfrog) as many store owners do, so I would have to go outside of my inventory management program to save a few dollars.  Probably not worth the trouble for a few dollars.

Why is eBay appealing to the very casual eBay seller?  What do they gain by targeting this customer?  Not much from the looks of it.  Anyone who sells just a few items a month on eBay may not be aware of this change or may not care enough to  increase their auction listings.  Isn’t that what the intended result of this change was?  To increase listings thereby making more money for eBay?  If so, why not serve casual and mega-listers and make that magic number 20 free auctions?  That way the casual listers can still list a few per month, possibly list a couple more things from the basement, and megalisters can actually get a bit of a break on a larger number of auctions and actually be happy to see their monthly bill go down a notch.  Here’s an even better scenario:  the first fifty auctions per month free.  Watch the auctions go up, up, up and eBay can collect all the FVF’s they want.  Ebay and the sellers are happy as clams.

I can still dream, can’t I.

Went to my favorite kind of auction last night. 

What makes it my favorite kind of auction you ask?

It’s rural.

It’s far enough away from home without being annoyingly far.  In other words, within an hour’s drive.

The Amish park their horses and carriage under a shade tree.  This always fascinates me.  I try not to stare at the people who are obviously Amish because of their dress.  I’m not a rude person just a people watcher.  The men do the bidding.  Their wives quietly browse and bring their husband’s attention to any hidden bargains like every good wife does (including this one.)  Their clothes are very clean and all handmade.  I have to stop myself from staring at their clothes.  The seams are always so well sewn and the ladie’s dresses and bonnets are usually made of such durable fabrics.  Nothing fancy but made to last.  I could go on and on about this.  Did I mention how people fascinate me? 

This auction takes place in cow country.  It’s always a beautifully scenic drive.  I’m a country girl at heart even though I’ve spent most of my life in suburbia.

I have to park on a winding country road with a ditch to my side that I have to remember is there when it gets pitch black.  OK, so this isn’t one of my favorite things about this auction.  My husband was not able to go with me this time so I had to do the “parking thing” alone.  If I fell into the ditch no one would hear the thump, the probable screams, and even if someone did they would think “Eh, one less bidder.”    So I had to be extra careful.  It’s out in the country but there’s still danger out there folks. 🙂

It takes place in a driveway.  The box lots are all pulled out to the driveway and choiced to the highest bidder.  You have to be fast on your feet and well prepared.  I learned this the hard way as I’ve learned mostly every else.  It’s lightning fast and there’s no time for slackers.  The auctioneer will usually taunt the unprepared, “What? Is this your first auction?” and everyone chuckles.  Been there.  On both sides.  It’s fun though.  Really.

The food is good but sometimes it distracts me.  One time I was munching away and didn’t realize that half of the crowd had gone out to start bidding.  I missed the lot that I wanted while I fed my face.  Boy that food was good but it could have waited.  Honestly, I was pissed at myself for doing something so stupid.  Now I eat when I’m done.  Period.  Between my purse, my bidder card, my lot list, and my pen, I don’t have any hands left for even a drink.  When my husband’s with me he might be the water boy (or should I say “man”?) but he wasn’t so I had to stay parched.  Oh yeah, and there’s only a porta-potty so there’s incentive to not drink a thing if you know what I’m saying…

Do you love to go to auctions too?  What makes them fun for you?  I’d love to hear from you.

I’ve just added some really neat stuff and the good news is that I’ve only just scratched the surface of the items I have to list.

When I think of wigs, I think of being a little girl in the sixties and early 1970’s.  My mom had various wigs on styrofoam heads that she actually let me play with too.  I remember how neat they were and how pretty my mom and all of her friends looked when they were wearing these cool hairstyles.

Do women still wear these?  I don’t know of one.  That’s why I put in my auction “Drag queens, Halloween, and everything in between” because I’m sure there are a variety of uses for these gorgeous pieces.

Like this one:

Christian Dior Wig

Christian Dior Wig

And a partial wig (wiglet) like this one:

Wiglet

Wiglet

I’ve got some great vintage neckties up too:

Tie Lot Auction

Tie Lot Auction

I love this one:

Moonrocks Apollo 11 Tie

Moonrocks Apollo 11 Tie

Why did I start this auction at 99 cents?  I guess I felt like living on the edge today.  That’s how I roll…

This is more my style…  if I wore ties, that is:

Garfield the Cat Necktie

Garfield the Cat Necktie

 

I felt the need to tell a story in this auction.  No I didn’t make it up.  It’s true:

Ugly or Unique? You Be The Judge

Ugly or Unique? You Be The Judge

 Clicking on the above pictures will take you straight to the auctions if you’d like to see them. 

Not only did I have a blast putting these up for sale but I have so much more good stuff to put up.  Can’t wait to keep going!  I’m off…

 

My newest Bonanzle booth for camping signs, equipment, and all kinds of stuff to be added soon. 

Check it out!

http://www.bonanzle.com/booths/camparoundtheclock

Don’t slip to the dark side.  Not in front of your customers anyway.

Sellers, you know what I mean.  You read an email from a potential buyer that just doesn’t sit right.  Or, you just read a post in a discussion forum that raises your hackles.  Or maybe another seller just implied that you’re not doing things “the right way.”   You know, their way.

Your fingers are on the keyboard before you even exhale.   You fire off a blur of  emotional paragraphs  peppered with words and phrases that may not be as professional as you would normally write.   You might write with anger, sarcasm, or even profanity. 

Have I done this?  Yep.  “How’d that work out for you?”, you ask.  Not well.  Every time.  Did it give me inner satisfaction to make my point known to this awful person who dared to disagree with my opinions?  Temporarily, yes.  But it was very fleeting.  It fled quickly after it occurred to me that there was now a written record of my dark side.

You know about the dark side, don’t you?  That (hopefully) small, dark, gnarly and nasty place inside that is just looking for a reason to come out and play.  It’s that place where we cram all of our daily exasperations to which we can’t always react.  Life busts our chops every day.  Some days it just has a field day.  Many days we can’t afford to react to each thing that Life throws at us.  Where do those feelings go?  To the dark side. 

Ask my husband about my dark side.  Preferably when I’m not in the room.  He’ll tell you (if I’m not in the room) that I can be sarcastic and nasty when my dark place flairs up.  Does it happen often?  No, thank God for that!

Ask my former co-workers about my secret dark twin.  As my unhappiness with my life-sucking job increased, my demeanor slipped to an all-time sarcastic low.  Hint:  If you ever become the most negative person in the room, it’s time to leave the job behind and find out how you can again become the most positive person.  Something has changed and it may just be you.  Don’t rely on negativity to improve your work environment.  It really doesn’t work that way and you know it.  Just a little career advice that I feel qualified to give.  Trust me on that one. 

Anyhoo…  Sellers, now that you’ve ignited your dark side what are you going to do about it?  Should you fire off that email response to the buyer that criticized your listing?  Should you get into a pissing match with another seller over business practices about which you totally disagree?  Will you lambast that newbie on the chat board that just thinks she knows everything?  You might, but I’m thinking you’ll regret it later.

It’s hard to rise above it all but in every instance that I chose that route, I have not been sorry.  Conversely, every time I took the “blast-it-all-to-Hell-I’m-telling-you-exactly-how-I-feel-because-it-will-make-me-feel-better-and-really-important-too” route, I wind up feeling very unprofessional and lacking in self-control.  “Why did my emotions get the better of me?”  “How come I actually mailed that email?”  “Now every time I go to that chat board I (and everyone else) can pull up that thread and see what a bitch I am!”  yadda yadda – self-loathing, remorse, wanting a do-over that can never be done.  In other words, a complete waste of precious time.

What you write down on the internet and in emails can not be unwritten.  Simple, right?  We all know this.  Remember it.  Rise above the negativity.  There’s an awful lot of it out there.  You have the power to wade into it and become part of it or to take the bridge over troubled water away from the dark side and into the light.  There’s a troll down there that would love to deliver that angry post or email.  Tell him very professionally that his services are not needed and that you’ll be responding when you are in a better frame of mind.  Or that you won’t be responding at all, thank you very much.

Our online words, emails, and posts are the only “faces” that our customers (including other sellers) will probably ever see.  That one email, Tweet, or post may be the only thing they read from us.   Wouldn’t it be a shame if the only side they saw of us was our tiniest worst side?

Lately I’ve been thinking of ways to diversify my online business beyond eBay and Amazon.  I have my own website that I do next to nothing with due to time constraints and I sell on five other sites that provide some extra sales in addition to the “Big Two”  – eBay and Amazon.  With eBay ripe for competition, there are other sites that seem to have survived a while so I took the time this week to jump in.

Not long ago I had looked into two new sites, eCrater.com and Bonanzle.com, but didn’t have the time to peruse yet another site that wants to take on dissatisfied eBay sellers (there are many) and I assumed that there was minimal traffic to these sites anyway. 

Maybe I was wrong.   I have spent the better part of the last two days setting up webstores at each site (they’re free) and have yet to get sales there.  It’s a tad early for that probably, but after having looked in detail at each site, I have to say that I’m impressed with their visions.

Bonanzle was a very easy set up that allowed me to load my listings from eBay without too much effort.  It rounded each dollar amount up to the nearest dollar and loaded my photos perfectly.  It has a Facebook kind of look to it and was extremely easy to use.  It also took my feedback from eBay and transferred it over to my Bonanzle webstore.  Wow!  Free and easy.

eCrater was only more difficult because I had to add each item myself.  I took the items that I have multiple quantities of, and could very quickly list items by cutting and pasting from my original listings.

These two sites have their work cut out for them but they are definitely on the right track.  They remind me (especially Bonanzle) of the way that eBayers still talk about the early days of eBay.    It was fun, easy, profitable for both sides, and customers got great deals.  Not so much fun for all 3 parties these days.  Ebay’s greed is notorious and they have recently changed their selling rules so frequently that it’s hard to keep up.  Many changes were  not seller friendly either.

Check out my new webstores if you get a minute.

Links:

http://www.bonanzle.com/booths/booksaroundtheclock

and

http://booksaroundtheclock.ecrater.com/

Any helpful feedback would be appreciated.

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